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Marinades - Part Two: Ratios & Recipes

Posted by Chef Perry P. Perkins on

In our last post, we looked at how marinades were developed, the components (fat, acid, and seasoning) to make up a basic marinade, and the reason why marinating is a great option for BBQ and grilled meats.

Now, let’s delve a little deeper and talk about how you can build on that foundation to create your own unique and amazing marinades!

We’ll start from a very basic marinade was:

  • 3/4 cup each olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  • 1/4 c Tequila

From that you can customize your marinade to suit the dish:

Tex-Mex: 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 2 tsp cumin and 1 tsp hot pepper sauce. Swap lemon juice with juice and zest of 1 lime.

Mediterranean: Add 1/2 cup (total) chopped herbs…I like parsley, oregano, basil, and a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce. Replace the cider vinegar with balsamic.

Asian: Add two star anise pods, and a stick of cinnamon. Replace cider vinegar with rice vinegar, and swap out the salt 2 tablespoons pure soy sauce. Stir in 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions.

Whisk all of the ingredients together and add the meat in a glass or non-aluminum bowl. As all surfaces of the meat must come in contact with the marinade, I've found I get the best results by vacuum-packing the meat in bags. This method requires less marinade, as well.

How long to marinade

How long you should marinate depends on what you're marinating. Here are a few general pointers, keeping in mind that things like thickness, density, and fat/protein rations all play a factor as well.

Small pieces of fish in lime juice at room temperature would only need a few minutes to marinate. A 10 pound beef brisket in soy sauce in the refrigerator might need to marinate overnight or longer.

Chicken - You can marinate chicken whole or in parts, but poking a few whole in the skin first will held the marinade get down deep. Personally, I prefer to brine whole birds (chickens and turkeys) and marinate cut pieces.

Typically, you don't need to marinate chicken longer than two hours of marinating is long enough for the meat to soak up the flavor, but USDA guidelines allow for up to two days.

I like to marinade boneless, skinless chicken thighs for 24 hours in my favorite teriyaki sauce, before grilling it with some veggies and serving over rice.

However, keep in mind that the more acid you have in your recipe, the less time you want to marinade, as it can toughen the meat if left in too long.

Beef/Lamb - Tough cuts like flank, hanger, skirt, sirloin, and, of course, brisket, can really improve in both texture and flavor by marinating. Usually you'll want to marinate these cuts for up to 24 hours. For high end steaks, like porterhouse or rib-eye, I wouldn't advise marinating, as it will actually break down the marbling, and make them tougher.

Pork - Thin cuts like pork chops and medallions can be marinated for as little as 1/2 hour. For thicker cut pork chops and steaks, marinate for 2-4 hours.

When marinating whole shoulders, poke a few 1 inch incisions all over the shoulder to let the marinade really seep in. Make sure you don’t marinate for more than 24 hours, though; your meat will break down too much and become mushy. Keep in mind that boneless shoulders are going to have less flavor after roasting than bone in, so marinate them longer.

Whole Pigs

You can marinate whole pigs (I have), but I usually don't recommend it for two reasons.

First, it takes a LOT of marinade to cover a whole pig, and that can get spendy.

Second, you don't want to saturate all that lovely skin with liquid, as it won't crisp and, let's face it, crispy skin is the whole point!

If you want to get next-level flavor into a whole pig with a brine or Mojo marinade, go with an injector, and keep that skin dry!

Fish - Most fish/shellfish should really only marinade for 30 minutes and not more than an hour; after that you begin to get a "ceviche effect, as the fish begins to “cook” in the acids and gets mushy.

GREAT for eating raw, not so good if you're planning on cooking it. Also, avoid heavy flavors in your marinade, especially with milder, lighter fleshed product. I mean, the whole point is to enjoy the taste of the fish, right?

Keep Smokin!

~ Chef Perry

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